Terrorism

Publication - April 1, 2008
“Nuclear terrorism is still often treated as science fiction — I wish it were. But unfortunately we live in a world of excess hazardous materials and abundant technological know-how, in which some terrorists clearly state their intention to inflict catastrophic casualties.”

Because of nuclear power plants’ importance to the electricity supply system, their symbolic character and the severe consequences of radioactive releases, they are attractive targets for terrorist and military attacks.

An attack on a nuclear facility could lead to radioactive releases equivalent to several times those at Chernobyl. Nuclear facilities could be targets in war if a military use is suspected. Attacks could be performed by air, on the ground and from the water. As evidence shows more terrorists are considering the nuclear option, plans to increase the number of reactors globally are dangerous.

Consider this evidence:

  • Detailed plans of Britain’s nuclear sites were found in a car linked to the July 2005 London bombings.
  • A terrorist strike on Sellafield’s storage tanks of radioactive waste in the U.K. could kill more than two million people.
  • During 2004 and 2005, there were over 40 cases of potential security breaches at U.K. civil nuclear sites.
  • In 2005, three suspected terrorists were caught by the Lucas Heights nuclear research reactor near Sydney, Australia.
  • An interview shown on Al Jazeera in 2002 contained a statement that al-Qaida initially planned to include a nuclear plant in 2001.
  • To date, there have been six attacks on nuclear power plants in France, South Africa, Switzerland, the Philippines and Spain.
  • The International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism database includes 167 terrorist incidents involving a nuclear target for the period 1970-1999.

As a consequence of the threat of a terrorist attack, governments and the nuclear industry are seeking to restrict public access to information on how the industry operates on the grounds of nuclear safety and security. This restriction on public information reduces the public’s ability to challenge the unsafe operation of nuclear plants. Instead of destroying civil liberties, government efforts to provide real security would be better served through nuclear phase-outs and investments in renewable energy. A wind turbine or a solar panel is not an attractive terrorist target.

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